Defoe House in the Barbican Estate


Front page of the City’s original letting brochure

Building completed

December 1973. Defoe House  was part of Phase II of the City’s building programme for the Barbican site. The original contractor was Turriff Limited. But after long delays and labour disputes Turriff were allowed to leave the site and their buildings were completed by John Laing Construction Limited.


Defoe House is a terrace block running east to west and positioned roughly between Lauderdale Tower and the Barbican Arts Centre. Defoe House forms the northern side of Thomas More garden which it overlooks to the south. On the north (rear) side it overlooks Shakespeare Tower and Defoe Place.


Defoe House is an ‘east-west’ or ‘front to back’ block which means that it runs from east to west and the flats in them go the whole depth of the block from the front to the back (so residents look out of their windows north and south).

Similar blocks

There are 4 very similar terrace blocks: Andrewes House and Speed House which face each other over the lake; and Thomas More House and Defoe House, which face each other over Thomas More Gardens. They each have penthouse flats at the top, ‘garden’ flats below the Podium level, and 6 floors of flats in between.


In Defoe House there are 178 flats and maisonettes (numbered 1 – 178) of which 24 are roof-top penthouses. Living rooms have a view of the garden or the lake and bedrooms look out over the garden square between John Trundle Court and Bryer Court at one end or Shakespeare Tower at the other. There are some flats below podium level which have a view over Thomas More Garden, but no direct access.


There are entrance doors at podium level on Defoe Place for each staircase. There is also access from Beech Street via the underground car park which is most convenient when coming back from Waitrose which is at the street level. Staircase No. 1 nearest Lauderdale Tower also gives access at 01 level to Lauderdale Place. There are stairs to some of the garden flats by separate entrances between the pillars on the podium.

Lifts and staircases

Since each flat takes up the depth of the building, there is no central corridor. Instead, there are separate staircases with lifts every two flats along the block. Each staircase serves two flats on each floor. There are 12 staircases numbered 1 to 12. Staircase 1 uniquely opens at street level (01) and has a security camera.

Car parking

On 01 level there is access to the Defoe House / Shakespeare Tower car park, whose entrance is off Beech Street.


There are tenants’ stores which can be accessed at street level from Lauderdale Place (at staircase No. 1) and at a lower level accessed down steps next to Lambert Jones Mews.

List description

List description of this building issued by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (as it then was) in 2001.

“Block IV: Nos. 1-178 Defoe House. Seven storeys above podium with two storeys under. Twelve broad bays between giant concrete columns supporting cross beams, the ends of the beams on other floors exposed to form large bays. Each of these are subdivided into three room spans, forming a pattern for the flats along the facades of two and one units width between glazed firescreens. The podium is open, but with glazed entrances to the flats in each of the twelve bays. Sliding varnished timber windows set behind paved balconies, with metal and glass balustrades and many with concrete window boxes, painted undersides of roof. 24 rooftop penthouses, with double height fully-glazed ends under rounded tops, given a distinctive white finish. The one-two pattern of the flats is explained by their being ‘L ‘-shaped and having a double aspect, each pair wrapped around a central fully glazed lightwell containing staircase and lift.”